Religious commentators Vicky Beeching (left) and Khakan Qureshi. (Left: Nicholas Dawkes. Right: Courtesy of Khakan Qureshi)
Campaigners, including Vicky Beeching, are urging TV bosses to increase the representation of religious LGBT+ characters on our screens.
Their calls follow reports that soap EastEnders is set to introduce a lesbian Muslim for the first time.
According to the The Sun, character Iqra Ahmed (Priya Davdra) will come out as gay later this month.
Vicky Beeching, a lesbian writer and equality campaigner, who works to make the church a more diverse and inclusive place, said that better media representation would help to show viewers that people can be both religious and LGBT+.
“There’s a strong belief in many religious communities that you cannot be LGBTQ and a person of faith,” she told PinkNews.
“That was the view I grew up with and it forced me to stay in the closet until I was 35 years old.
“That paradigm pushes people to choose between their beliefs and their LGBTQ identity, which is an immensely painful and damaging situation.”
Young people of faith need to see diverse religious role models on TV, says Vicky Beeching
Beeching, who was a star on the Christian rock scene before she came out as gay in 2014, explained that she battled with this viewpoint from her teenage years until her early thirties, which was “so bleak at times” that she even considered suicided.
The 40 year old went on to say that increased representation of LGBT+ characters from faith backgrounds on television would help young people who are LGBT+ and religious to feel less alone.
“The media can help to break these outdated stereotypes by including characters who are both LGBTQ and religious; who are able to unite both and live happy and fulfilled lives,” she continued.
“Young people of faith especially need to see diverse religious role models online and on TV.”
Beeching added: “Then, if they are LGBTQ themselves, they’ll know that some faith communities will accept and celebrate both aspects of their identity.
“Coming out will be less terrifying and they’ll know that they’re not walking the path alone.”
The media can help to break these outdated stereotypes by including characters who are both LGBTQ and religious
Meanwhile, Khakan Qureshi, a Muslim and founder Of Birmingham South Asians LGBT – Finding A Voice, told PinkNews that it was necessary for TV shows to reflect the full diversity of British culture.
“It’s remarkable that the media are now choosing to represent religious LGBT+ characters,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”
Khakan Qureshi: Representation of religious LGBT+ characters is “long overdue”
Qureshi highlighted how soaps like Eastenders, which previously featured a gay Muslim man called Syed, have paved the way for better representation of LGBT+ religious characters.
“We’ve only had a few religious LGBT+ characters in the media and I think it’s about time we covered other faiths, so we nurture role models, normalise our existence and allow soaps in particular, to depict the reality of everyday life,” he added.
“Apart from EastEnders, Coronation Street and My Beautiful Laundrette, we definitely need more representation to encourage others to lead more authentic lives and say: ‘Yes, you can reconcile faith with sexual orientation and gender identity.’”
The calls from campaigners come after Stonewall issued a press release calling for better representation of LGBT+ people of faith as well as lesbians in popular culture, following the reports surrounding EastEnders.